intelposts100823_economy_560[1]Entrepreneurs must live with great uncertainty. Unlike the “9 to 5” crowd who prod through predictable daily work routines, life at a startup is wildly unpredictable. More than tasks or workflow, startups must manage unpredictable outcomes and then must adapt on the spot. This learning requires a founder to be accepting of considerable ambiguity and challenges the startup to embrace a lack of structure.

For many startups, the mystery of the unpredictable work environment can be a reward by itself. This may explain why some founders become serial entrepreneurs with life at a startup as the the work of choice.

A new study called “EurkeAlert” published in the Journal of Consumer Research, suggests that this mystery about outcomes boosts adrenaline and can be motivating. The authors suggest, “When comparing the time, money, and effort people invest in order to qualify for either a certain or an uncertain reward, we find that the uncertain reward is more motivating than the certain reward, an effect we dubbed the motivating-uncertainty effect.”

Academics have long argued about the personality profiles of entrepreneurs. Some argue that the best entrepreneurs easily tolerate risk and have a sixth sense that allows them to see opportunity when others cannot. Whether innate or learned, coping with daily ambiguity and uncertain outcomes is a handy skill to have at the startup.

Think of uncertainty as the excitement that comes when opening a gift. At a startup, the gift might be considerable financial reward, a dramatic change in strategy, or even failure.


John Bradley Jackson
Author, Entrepreneur, Professor
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